| 16°C Dublin

Where are they now?

Denis Byrne

(Former Kilkenny hurler)

Although Denis Byrne was born and raised in Kilkenny, hurling wasn't his first love -- it was in fact football. During his formative years he was fascinated by the Kerry four-in-a-row team and his sporting hero was Jack O'Shea.

But that all changed when Byrne started school and a hurley was placed in his hand. He still liked football and played a bit of it but very quickly his life began to revolve around hurling.

When Byrne hit his teenage years he was called for a trial with the Kilkenny under 14s; he made the squad and so began his journey to All-Ireland senior glory. He won a minor All-Ireland title in 1991 and then three years later Ollie Walsh called him into the senior panel. That same year he made the under 21 team and won an All-Ireland at that level.

For the next eight years he was part of the Kilkenny panel. In 1999, he captained the team and in 2000 he won an All-Ireland senior title and an All Star award. Although there was a lot of commitment required, Byrne enjoyed it.

"I was there for the transition in training and preparation," he says. "In the mid-1990s, Clare brought a new element to it. It took us a few years to get there but we did eventually. Nickey Brennan came in and brought a more professional attitude to the set-up and the managers after that carried it on."

The last full game Byrne played for Kilkenny was the All-Ireland final in 2000. He followed his eight points in the semi-final with four in the final but never really featured again. Byrne retired a couple of years after that but felt he was still good enough for the team. He played on with his club Graigue-Ballycallan until two years ago and counts winning the county title in 1998 as one of his proudest moments.

Byrne now lives in Tipperary and thinks today will be third time lucky for his former team.

"I'd love to get three chances to beat a team in a year. Kilkenny should have them figured out at this stage. I think a lot of the Kilkenny players were a bit under par the last day and they should up it a few gears today and they could beat Galway well. They can't let them dictate the game, they will have to force their own game on them."

Sunday Indo Sport